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Giving: Fall 2009
Author: Katrina Ratzlaff
Posted: September 14, 2009

Maggie Sherpa and Zack Smith spoof their Telefun workClass of $20.09

WHEN PSU TELEFUND student managers Zack Smith and Maggie Serpa (pictured) first sketched out last spring's senior gift campaign, they felt confident that despite the tough economic times they could beat campaign results from 2008.

They doubled it.

"We were amazed," says Smith. "The campaign brought in $6,000 last year. We knew we could do better, but $12,000 was a way bigger stretch than we imagined."

What made the difference? A student-driven campaign with a purpose graduates could personally identify with. Smith, Serpa, and their team reached out to their peers by phone, through Facebook, and at campus activities, asking them to participate with a gift to the Emergency Scholarship Fund for students with exceptional need.

"People know how hard it is to pay for school right now, so they could relate to a request to support scholarships," says Smith. "It was something they could really get behind."

SERPA CREATED a Facebook page, and the team invited as many Portland State students as they could to be fans—even if they weren't yet graduating. "Our idea was to pave the way for next year, or the one after that," says Smith. "We wanted to spread awareness about giving to PSU in a place students see every day," adds Serpa.

The Facebook page included a photo book, "The Adventures of Victor E. Viking," as well as an online contribution link and a chance to win a new iTouch in exchange for providing contact information. Facebook event invites alerted students to follow-up phone calls from the student Telefund.

"We had five specially trained callers who were comfortable asking their peers to give," Smith notes, "and over three weeks we called every student who'd signed up to graduate—about 3,000."

The campaign emphasized participation over dollars, suggesting a contribution of $20.09, but encouraging graduating students to give at any level they could afford. "I heard callers saying things like, 'Can you give even $10—it's what you might spend on pizza one night.' Or, 'I could only give $10, but a lot of others are doing $20.09.' We were surprised at how many people did that," says Smith.

Their success in 2009 inspires Smith, Serpa, and their team to reach even higher in 2010, which will be their own graduation year. "We want to add an event for all graduating students to celebrate and kick off the campaign—maybe a barbecue or student band concert," Smith suggests, adding with a smile, "or maybe a dunk tank if we can get a dean or professor to go along with it."

Learn more about the impact of gifts to PSU.